Atlanta United applies late-game lessons against Columbus

Two yellow cards may be an acceptable price to pay by Atlanta United in its 3-1 win over Columbus on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

After giving away seven points in three games earlier this season because it didn’t manage leads through the final minutes, Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino stressed to his team the importance of being savvy enough to milk precious seconds off the clock when the team is winning.

Hector Villalba, who showed that he may be the fastest player in MLS with a ridiculous run and goal that gave Atlanta United a 2-1 lead, became slower than traffic on I-75 while walking off the field when he was subbed off in the 86th minute. Yellow card.

With a two-goal lead, goalkeeper Brad Guzan took his sweet time taking a goal kick as the clock ticked away Columbus’ hopes in the 88th minute. Yellow card.

Martino didn’t exactly apologize for the tactics after the game.

“I think what we tried to do was take the rhythm out of the game,” he said. “Once we scored the third goal we tried to break up the rhythm. Columbus is a team that because of the nobleness and quality of the opponent, that maybe they didn't deserve to have the game broken up like that. But it's something that we weren't able to do in some of the previous games. In that sense, it was important for us. They are a very quality team."

A few seconds here and there may not seem like much, but a draw at New England, loss at Dallas and draw at Toronto -- the seven points dropped by Atlanta United after allowing late goals -- may prove otherwise.

After the draw with Toronto, Martino complained that he was tired to seeing opponents take the air out of a game in most dead ball situations. He said, instead of playing and respecting the game, that his team may start doing the same.

“It’s not delay tactics, it’s more savviness managing a game,” Guzan said last week. “I think it’s important for us, especially late on when we are winning games, not necessarily to delay or stall the game, but to have a better understanding or better savviness about us in terms of managing the game.”